Friday, March 17, 2017

Lydia—Milagro—SE Portland

Borders With Shame

The Northwest Premiere of this drama is written by Octavio Solis and directed by Kinan Valdez.  It is playing at their space, 525 SE Stark St. (just off Grand Blvd.), through April 8th.  (Parking in this area is very difficult so would plan on ample time to find a space.).  For more information, go to their site at www.milagro.org or call 503-236-7253.

In E. B. White’s terrific book about King Arthur and Camelot, “The Once and Future King,” Merlin changes young Wart (later, Arthur), into an Eagle so that he can soar above all the earth.  In his flying he notes that lands have a lovely, patchwork design, animals run free and mingle with each other, and that there are no borders from the sky-view.  Only people build borders.  And, if borders, or walls, between lands/people are built, then freedom is restricted and the opportunity to intermingle with neighbors is considerably hampered.  In our Constitution it states that all men are created free…and justice for all.  Somehow, in this day and age, that sentiment has been considerably muddied.

Pope Francis has said that we should be building bridges between peoples, not walls, so that we can better understand the world in which we live and those that dwell on it.  If we create barriers around our country, based on ethnicity and religion, are we not dishonoring our forefathers who escaped an oppressive regime for similar reasons and found America?!  If we create a barrier around a land, how long will it be before we build a wall around ourselves and our feelings of compassion and love, keeping others at bay…or has that already begun?

Into the beginnings of this world, in the 1970’s in Texas town bordering on Mexico, is thrust the Flores family, themselves immigrants from Mexico.  There is the Papa, Claudio (Tony Green), who is a drunk, abusive to his kids and has cornered himself off from their world.  There is Mama, Rosa (Nurys Herrera), who has been sequestered from her husband’s love for a long time and must, almost solely, tend to her family’s needs.  There is the older brother, Rene (Rega Lupo), who has “trouble” as his middle name, as his idea of a good time is “homo-bashing” and drinking.  And the younger boy, Misha (Matthew Sepeda), the sensitive one, who wants to be a writer, a poet and has a special fondness for his sister, Ceci (Maya Malán-Gonzáles), who has been brain-damaged from a mysterious accident, never fully explained.

Into this world are also a cousin, Alvaro (Ricardo Vazquez), who once was a soldier fighting in Nam, now a border guard returning illegal aliens to Mexico.  It is, at best, a dysfunctional family.  Into this world appears Lydia (Marian Mendez), who will become a sort of “spiritual catalyst,” catapulting this family into an awakening that will either drive them deeper into their pits they have dug for themselves and borders that have constructed, or free them, forcing the “dirty laundry” to be displayed for all to see.  The one wild card in this whole arrangement is that Ceci is able to expose her true thoughts and feelings to the audience many times throughout the story, in which she is no longer stifled because of her infirmary, but is able to soar above it all and in a language which only Lydia seems able to understand.

To tell you more would ruin discoveries that an audience should make but, be aware, it is a frank and gut-wrenching journey, in which one will be moved, perhaps disgusted, but ultimately exposed to a raw truth which had been festering like a boil for a long time.  This event forces an awaking, perhaps rude, but necessary for a family to move forward.  It does not mean, necessarily, that all will live “happily-ever-after” but, perhaps, hopefully…ever after.

Valdez has pulled no punches when telling this story and his actors, all well cast, also seem up to the challenge of pulling out all the emotional stops when relating this painful saga of family angst.  Mendez does well in portraying the enigmatic, Lydia, always keep us guessing as to her motives and background.  Green, a frequent and welcome actor on the boards of theatre, is very effective as a volcano with a soft spot.  The rest of the family, consisting of Vazquez, Herrera, Lupo and Sepeda are spot-on as they present a roller coaster of emotions in their characters.

And special kudos to Malán-González in the dual roles of the severely injured, Ceci, and her more verbal counterpart.  She is extraordinary as an actor, as both incarnations are equally exceptional!  Hope to see more of her on the stage.  Also, it is quite a difficult lighting challenge but Katelan Braymer, the designer, is up to the test and does quite an amazing job of keeping everything straight for us, as the story frequently jumps from reality, to dream world, to the past and back to the present.  Kudos to her, as well.

Also, many theatres across the Nation are involved with the Ghostlight Project, letting them be a beacon for all those wishing a safe haven, a sanctuary:   http://dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com/2017/01/ghostlight-projectportland.html

I do recommend this show but be aware it is very adult and frank in presentation.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.